The American Rescue Plan ACT of 2021
- Important Legal Notice
March 23, 2021
President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Act (ARPA) into law on March 11, 2021. The package includes several provisions of interest to employers.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Extended
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit remains at $300.00 per week through Sept. 6, 2021. This increases the total number of weeks from 50-79 weeks for individuals that do not qualify for regular benefits.
There are no changes to eligibility for individuals that do not qualify for state unemployment benefits (ex. Self-employed, gig workers, and others in non- traditional employment).
The act also extends the CARES benefits to individuals that exhausted benefits to September 6, 2021 from 24 weeks up to 53 weeks.
Federal payments to nonprofits and government agencies increases from 50%-75% after March 31, 2021 through September 6, 2021 for the cost of providing unemployment benefits.
COBRA CONTINUATION COVERAGE
The act now provides for 100 % subsidy of premiums for eligible COBRA recipients for continuation coverage if they lose their job through involuntary termination. Employers may claim a refundable tax credit against their Medicare payroll tax liability for the cost of the premiums. The assistance is available through Sept. 30, 2021, and is no longer available once an individual becomes eligible for coverage under another group health plan or Medicare.
Qualified Beneficiaries are required to notify their group health plan if they become eligible for other coverage during the subsidy period, if they fail to do so they could be liable for a $250.00 penalty, which may be waived if the failure was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect. An intentional failure can result in a penalty of $250 or 110% of the amount of premium assistance received, if greater.
The federal government's subsidy for COBRA coverage premiums that ex-employees would otherwise be required to pay will:
- Begin on April 1, 2021.
- End on Sept. 30, 2021.
Only assistance eligible individuals (AEIs) qualify for a subsidy, and this excludes employees who voluntarily end their employment.
The definition of an AEI: Someone who, in the time period between April 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2021, is eligible for COBRA coverage due to an involuntary termination (other than for gross misconduct) or a reduction in hours and elects coverage. An AEI no longer is eligible for a subsidy upon the earliest date of his or her becoming eligible for other group health plan coverage (that is not an excepted benefit) or Medicare or the expiration of his or her maximum COBRA period.
Under the ARPA, employers could give laid-off employees up to 90 days (following COBRA-notice receipt) to elect to enroll in a different group health plan offered by their employer. The premium for the alternative coverage choice cannot be higher than the premium for the plan in which the employee had been enrolled, among other restrictions.
This could be a huge relief to affected employees or covered relatives, assisting them financially, eliminating the burden of searching for new plans and understanding the ins and outs of a new plan.
Under the ARPA, a terminated worker who is eligible for assistance and who has not elected COBRA coverage by April 1, or who elected COBRA coverage but then discontinued it, may elect COBRA coverage during a special enrollment period starting April 1 and ending 60 days after the date on which the COBRA notification was delivered.
These individuals may receive the subsidy on a prospective basis without having to elect and pay for COBRA retroactively for months prior to the subsidy becoming available.
Employers will have to include information about the availability of the subsidy and the special 60-day enrollment period for qualified beneficiaries in their COBRA Notices by May 30, 2021. The information may be added to current COBRA notices or be provided in a separate document.
COBRA notice forms, either as amended or as a separate document, must include:
- The forms necessary for establishing eligibility for COBRA premium assistance.
- The name, address and telephone number necessary to contact the plan administrator and any other person maintaining relevant information in connection with premium assistance.
- A description of the extended election period provided by the legislation.
- A description of the option to enroll in different coverage, if adopted by the employer.
Plans must also:
- Send a separate expiration notice to eligible individuals when their periods of premium assistance are due to expire.
- Notify individuals if their subsidy will end before Sept. 30, 2021, although this notice will not be required if their subsidy is ending due to the individual's eligibility for other coverage.
In addition to providing the required notices, plan sponsors of group health plans should consider whether they will permit individuals to enroll in a different—but not more expensive—plan option than the one in which they were enrolled when coverage was lost. Plan sponsors would have the option to permit this and would need to include the availability of that option in the notices they send out.
Employers will obtain the subsidy, to be passed along to COBRA enrollees, through a payroll tax credit against employers' quarterly taxes. If the credit exceeds the amount of payroll taxes due, the credit would be refundable when employers submit Form 941, their quarterly tax return. The credit could also be advanced under rules that will be set by the Treasury Department.
The premium amount may be advanced by the insurer of a fully insured group health plan or the plan sponsor of a self-funded group health plan, which, in turn, may work through the plan's COBRA third-party administrator.
Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts
The act raises the 2021 contribution limit for Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) to $10,500 for single taxpayers and to $5,250 for married individuals filing separately. The provision raises the exclusion limits for the plan year beginning after December 31,2020 and before January 1, 2022.
Employer Credits for Paid Sick and Family Leave
Extends employer credits to September 30, 2021, for employer-provided paid sick and family leave – established under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
Increases qualified Family Leave covered wages from $10K to $12K per employee.
Increases the number of days of paid leave for self-employed from 50 days to 60.
Expands the paid leave credits, including self-employed individuals, to cover COVID-19 vaccinations or wait times for test results or diagnoses.
Adds employer restrictions on receiving credits if paid leave policies favor highly compensated employees, full-time workers, or employees based on tenure.
Provides for reimbursement of pension plan and apprenticeship program contributions made by employers under a collective bargaining agreement that are allocable to employee paid sick and family leave.
Employee Retention Credit
Extends the employee retention credit through December 31, 2021. The employee retention credit was originally enacted in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, P.L. 116-136, and it allows eligible employers to claim a credit for paying qualified wages to employees.
Expands eligibility for the credit to new startups that were established after Feb. 15, 2020, and companies if their revenue declined by 90% compared to the same calendar quarter of the previous year. The credit is capped at $50,000 per calendar quarter for startups.
Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program
The act also provides $386 million for rapid retraining program to reskill unemployed veterans for high demand jobs or in high-technology programs.
Lastly another important change in the act that employers want to pay attention to is the Modification to the Paycheck Protection Program. This modification increases funding total to a little under $814B. It maintains eligibility for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(6) organizations. It also expands eligibility to labor organizations, social/recreational clubs, and fraternal benefit societies.
As we know, our laws are constantly changing so you will need to stay on top of the act while monitoring for any changes or additions.
You never know when someone needs help, especially if you don’t ask.
I had the pleasure of making an acquaintance at the gym, Tom, who asked me what I do for a living. “My company helps businesses and their employees”, and then I went on to explain exactly how we help. When he heard that I understand insurance he didn’t hold back, and voiced his frustration about a voluntary accident policy and a claim that wasn’t paying, and as soon as he could drop it he would (stating the policy was junk).
So I started asking more detailed questions - what carrier it was, and his reasoning behind why the claim wasn’t paying. I gathered a little info and looked into it later in the day.
As it turns out, my new friend was filing the wrong form, and instead of the carrier alerting the policyholder of his error, they simply denied it.
Tom brought me the paperwork today, where we will file his new claim properly, and thanked me for helping navigating these complicated waters - the claims process.
Turns out, Tom’s going to get his claim paid, and when it’s all said and done it will pay the equivalent of his policy for the next three years - on a single claim.
October is dedicated to Domestic Violence Awareness.
Domestic violence touches people all around us, male and female, dating or married, of any age and race. It can include physical, mental, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, as well as economic deprivation. Sadly, domestic abuse is not rare: according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in the United States, “1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience violence from their partners in their lifetimes”.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Many times, victims of domestic violence don’t tell people what is happening to them, so they are further isolated in their terror. Some signs of domestic violence can include:
• Having unexplained injuries / wearing long sleeves or sunglasses at inappropriate times (to conceal injuries)
• Arriving early or staying late for work
• Appearing fatigued
• Exhibiting fear, anxiety or depression
• Startling easily
• Showing a decrease in productivity
• Taking a lot of unplanned time off
As an outsider, it is easy to say, “Why don’t they just leave”? For many reasons, walking away is not a simple solution. Fear, embarrassment, lack of financial resources, and shame of breaking up their family are just a few of the many reasons that people feel forced to stay in an abusive situation. On average, it takes a victim 7 attempts to leave before staying away for good.
What can you do to help?
• Listen without judgement
• Let them know that you believe them
• Ask what you can do to help—sometimes, the first step to empowering someone to leave a bad situation is simply knowing they have someone they can trust
• Support their decisions—it is critical for the person to regain a sense of control, and they may not be ready to speak to the police
• Encourage them to reach out to the national hotlines for help and guidance
• If you need help figuring out how to support someone else, the National Domestic Violence Hotlinecan assist—it is free and confidential.
Abuse is about power and control, but you can make it stop. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you do have options. You are not alone, it is not your fault, you are not stuck, and there are people who can help. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit the following websites for more information and resources:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline:
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
- Before You Go PEO.
A Professional Employer Organization, (PEO) provides small companies with payroll processing, benefit administration, insurances, HR training and support. Wait,....sounds a little like our company, FocusHRO. But what's different?
For one, a PEO charges either a flat rate or a percentage of payroll - sometimes as much as $1500 per year per employee. Also, PEO's require "co-employment" - that is, the shared responsibility of the employer. Your team is now employees of the PEO - they're no longer employees of your company.
FocusHRO is designed to help you provide all of the same services while you remain in control, and we think we're also a little more hands on. You'll be hard pressed to find a PEO that's going to stop out and visit, or share concern for which carrier and network your employees have access to. Instead, if the chief PEO decides you're moving carriers, guess what - you're moving carriers.
Take control back of your time and stay in control of your company with FocusHRO. We're ready to help.
- Business in a box. go ahead, open it.
As a business owner, you carry multiple responsibilities on a day to day basis. You are everything from the President, the marketing pro, the bookkeeper, the payroll specialist, the go-to for human resources, the team leader, sales lead, all the way down to the janitor. You are the first one in the office and the last one to leave (and when you do leave you probably go home and "log back in" while trying to juggle your work/life balance.) You are working hard to develop and grow your company to meet increasing customer demands. You are busy. We can help.
FocusHRO's "Business In A Box" was designed specifically for you. If you open the box, you'll find a single outsourcing solution to meet your needs, allowing you to focus on what is most important to you - building your business while maintaining your sanity. Let us handle the heavy lifting on the items that steal your most valuable asset - your time.
- Good country.
Happy Friday everyone! It's time for the #CaseoftheWeek! What a great week it was. We met some amazing people with all types of challenges; everything from finding a cost effective way to offer health plans, streamlining their payroll/accounting services, finding help with HR solutions, and the list goes on and on. We're blessed to have both the opportunity to work with these new people and to have the solutions to help them!
This week's #CaseoftheWeek comes to you from the "good country" south of Carlisle - the same country I put countless miles on my BMX bike when I was a kid. This company restores cars, and they do it better than any show I've seen on TV! After meeting with the owners we learned that they are on a push to attract quality employees through the offering of a rich benefit plan, and they are doing it because they truly care about the people that work hard for them. After a short meeting, we've come up with exactly what they are looking for - a comprehensive plan that removes any gaps in coverage while keeping the employee's cost to a minimum. This, after all, is their wish. They didn't want their employees to find themselves in a difficult position if ever an unfortunate health event takes place. These people put their employees first.
In addition to helping them find the perfect plan, we are putting together a proposal to streamline their payroll and HR, bring their service local, and cutting their costs.
We hope to earn their business as a client, but in the process I feel like we've gained some new friends.
V & V - thank you for sharing your day with us, and for sharing your story and artwork with us. Congratulations for making the #CaseoftheWeek! Well deserved!
- Focushro #innovate
The vision of FocusHRO continues to sharpen with each new conversation with prospects and clients. The need is real for small to medium companies, and we are finding ways to help clients like never before - (remember "Throw away the Rolodex?")
If you follow our Facebook page (please do! https://www.facebook.com/focusHRO/) you will find a #CaseoftheWeek each Friday, describing both the needs of the company and the solutions we provide. All company names will remain anonymous, but the stories are real - their struggle, and how our model was the answer to their problems.
Want your story to show up on the next #CaseoftheWeek? Contact us today for a meeting - we're looking forward to the opportunity to serve you.
- Throw away the rolodex.
I've worked with small to mid-size businesses for years, and in nearly each instance I was asked, "Do you know someone who can help me with.........." I continued paying close attention to what my clients were asking for, and less attention on the very product or service I was there to solicit in the first place. After all, I was there to help.
The demand continued, and yet there was no clear, single solution that could do nearly everything that was being asked of me - until today. We've listened to you closely and are responding with a new company and platform to serve you - FocusHRO.
We understand how busy you are, and how difficult it can be to keep up with the demands of a growing business. So, we’ve designed a solution encompassing nearly all of the services a business owner could need to successfully operate a business. Performing a thorough diagnosis, we help determine which services can be outsourced locally, all in an effort to help free up time, money, and resources to focus on the business.
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